2018 Compassion Awards

WHEN:  THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 6:30 – 9:30 pm


The Giving Circle Compassion Award commends the ideals and values of The Giving Circle, selfless compassion in action.  Honoring those individuals who go above and beyond demonstrating devotion, dedication, tenderheartedness, dependability and perseverance to the needy and suffering beings locally, nationally and internationally.

The Giving Circle Compassion Award recognizes that even the simplest act of kindness can have the greatest impact on the quality of life for the underserved and downtrodden.   This award encourages selfless acts and promotes altruism and compassion in future generations.

Ticket and Sponsor Levels:

Sponsor Level Description Price
Paul Newman Single Event Ticket $ 100.00
Andrew Carnegie Receive 1 event ticket and listing in official event poster $ 200.00
John Hopkins Receive 1 event ticket and ¼ page official event poster $ 250.00
Martin Luther King Receive 2 event ticket and ½ page official event poster $ 500.00
Mother Teresa Receive 4 event ticket and ½ page message in official event poster $ 1,000.00
Mahatma Gandhi Receive VIP Table for 8, full official event poster $ 2,500.00
** The Giving Circle is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit.  All donations are tax deductible.

Honorary Chairs: Cindy Phillips & Jim Towne:

Honorary Chairs: Cindy Phillips & Jim Towne
Honorary Chairs: Cindy Phillips & Jim Towne

Cindy Phillips

Cindy Phillips lives in Wilton with her husband Gene.  They recently celebrated 40 years of marriage.  They have two children Keith, his wife Michele and sons Ethan and Ben and daughter Katie, with significant other Jeremy and their children Landon, Jaz, Julie and Joe.

Cindy retired in January 2018 from the City of Saratoga Springs after working over 20 years serving its residents.

Cindy currently serves as the President of the Board of Directors of the Gateway House of Peace, a 2 bed hospice home that does not charge its residents and receives no funding.

She is also a Board Member of the Saratoga Affordable Housing Group, which is always looking for new avenues to create more affordable housing in our community and currently oversees the Allen Drive affordable units.

Cindy has volunteered in many programs throughout her years starting with her children’s nursery school, public schools, many sports program that her children were involved with, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and St. Clements Church.  It was through her employment at Saratoga Springs City Hall that brought her to assisting the low to moderate residents of Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County through the Community Development Block Grant and the Continuum of Care programs with HUD funds.

This lead to being involved in the birth of Code Blue.  Cindy continued to serve on the Code Blue Advisory Committee until her retirement.  It is through Code Blue that Cindy encountered many passionate volunteers of the Giving Circle community, who have worked tirelessly to serve the homeless all through the year. It has been an honor and a privilege to work alongside all of the great people of the Giving Circle who now I call “friend”.

Jim Towne

Last year’s Founder’s award winner, Jim Towne, is one of our Honorary Chairs for this year’s event!

After his discharge from the Navy, Jim Towne came to the Capital District in 1972 to attend Albany Law School.  Having been born and raised in 

Connecticut, coming to the Capital District was in a sense coming home to where his father was born and raised at 150 Phila Street in Saratoga Springs and where Jim visited his grandparents as a child.  His career has been dedicated to representing the wide-ranging interests of individuals and businesses in all arenas.  Jim is proud to be a founding partner of Towne, Ryan & Partners, P.C., a NYS certified Women-owned Business Enterprise and the largest law firm holding that designation in Upstate New York. 

Jim’s dedication to the legal field has been evident throughout his 42-year career.  His 19 years on the Board of the Legal Aid Society, twice a recipient of the Legal Aid Society’s Distinguished Services Award; his current role as an Advisory Board member for The Legal Project and the recipient of The Legal Project’s Champion Award in 2015; and a nominee for the ABA’s national Pro Bono Publico Award are a testament to his passion for affording access for all to the legal system.   He chaired the successful fundraising efforts to underwrite Legal Aid’s acquisition of its first LAS-owned facility in Saratoga County in 2014.   In 2015 Jim partnered with The Legal Project to address his long-standing desire to increase the availability of legal services for domestic violence victims located in underserved and unserved remote regions of upstate New York who are hampered by transportation and limited resources.  The collaboration produced the William E. Byron Technology Center, named in honor of his father-in-law, that is a regional network hub providing access to legal advice for victims of domestic violence, also serving as a technology training center for The Legal Project’s other outreach efforts.  Jim has also been recognized professionally by appearing on the list of Upstate New York Super Lawyers for eleven consecutive years, being named as a Top 25 Attorney in the Hudson Valley and Jim was selected for a Lifetime Achievement Award among America’s Top 100 Attorneys® in Upstate New York.  In a nod to his knowledge of the equine industry, Jim was selected to serve on the Franchise Oversight Board for NYRA in 2013 and is now into his second term on the board. 

Jim has responded to the needs of many humanitarian organizations and not-for-profits throughout the Capital District and beyond, devoting countless hours of personal time and funds, championing innovative ideas for new services, methods of delivering needed assistance and enhancing fundraising efforts.  In addition to service on local boards such as Saratoga County’s Youth Board and the Town of Ballston’s Ethics Board, Jim also served on the boards of the Multiple Sclerosis Society and as a member of its Executive Committee for 18 years and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society for 12 years, advocating for local funding and local services to support survivors and families in the Capital District.  Jim was a recipient National Multiple Sclerosis Society Angel Achievement Award in 2006 in recognition of his years of service.  He currently serves on the board of Saratoga P.L.A.N., Inc. whose mission is the conservation and preservation of Saratoga County’s natural environment and unique open spaces.

  Another local affiliation which means a great deal to Jim is his association with Skidmore College.  In recognition of his family’s long association with Skidmore and his belief in the essential role a liberal arts education plays in enhancing the fabric of society, Jim worked with Skidmore’s administration and faculty to develop and underwrite a documentary studies program at the college and in the creation of Skidmore’s Storyteller’s Institute. Named in honor of his step-father, the John B. Moore Documentary Studies Program “is becoming a national leader in how to embed and advance the documentary arts within a liberal arts curriculum.” Jim helps fund the college’s First Year Experience in bringing the authors to campus and supports a number of summer internships for Skidmore students with local and regional businesses and non-profits.  His connection with Skidmore’s Friendship Family Program has offered Jim and his wife Sue priceless opportunities to develop lasting relationships with international students as a local friend, mentor and in providing a needed support system to facilitate their successful transition from their home countries to Skidmore.

Jim is founding board member of the Loisaba Community Conservation Foundation (LCCF), a 501 c.3 not-for-profit headquartered in Saratoga Springs.  This is project has been a true labor of love for Jim since its creation.  LCCF supports the educational and health needs of more than 19,000 Masaai and Samburu tribes people living in an extremely impoverished area of Kenya called Laikipia.  For nearly 20 years, Jim has spearheaded fundraising and hands-on operations for the Ewaso and Koija villages in Laikipia through:

Land and wildlife conservation and animal husbandry

Education – built nursery schools, primary school classrooms, student housing, dining facilities and a library bringing computer technology to the school, providing essential school equipment and supplies, underwriting conservation training, in refurbishing existing and building new teacher housing, and funding teacher, library and computer training salaries.  LCCF support encourages continued education for girls and boys by providing scholarships for secondary and university education, including underwriting 2 students who have become doctors and a third slated to graduate this Fall who is the region’s first female to obtain a medical degree.  In the current year LCCF underwrites 32 scholarships and the educational needs of Ewaso students who are attending 14 secondary schools, and 8 college and university programs throughout Kenya.

Health – partnering in 2002 with AMREF for the creation and funding of a medical clinic, recently funded, built and furnished a dental and maternity wing, this clinic provides the only resource for medical assistance in the region. Since the clinic’s creation, LCCF has provided the funding for the salary of the clinic’s nurse in addition to providing medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment and for more than 10 years developed and underwrote a program to bring in visiting doctors, nurses, PAs and dentists to the clinic.  Four years ago LCCF initiated a community health outreach program after training and supplying essential medical supplies for 15 community health workers which LCCF underwrites. 

Empowering Women and Girls – providing a broad range of support from creating an independent source of income and pride for women by underwriting beading projects and assisting in finding markets for their sale, underwriting job training for older women and creating additional employment opportunities, and serving as a co-founder of the region’s first anti-FGM education and training efforts allowing for alternate rites of passage for young girls.

In 2014 The Nature Conservancy (TNC) established a massive regional conservation undertaking to preserve the region’s unique wildlife habitat in an area of more than 10 million acres, including the area served by LCCF.  In recognition of the foundation’s ongoing successes, TNC proposed a partnering with LCCF to expand its reach in providing needed educational, medical and social support services to match TNC’s new conservation footprint inhabited by more than 120,000 people.  While photos can’t impart the whole story, it’s easy to see how the people of this remote area of Kenya have stolen Jim’s heart. 

The 2018  Award Winners:

Local Individual Resident who displays the Embodiment of Compassion - Kathy McNeice
Local Individual ResidentKathy McNeice
An individual who has through selfless compassion most influenced or touched people of the Saratoga region

Kathy McNeice has served as program manager for Saratoga Community Health Center since its doors opened five years ago in September 2013. The community health center was designed to meet the growing needs of the underserved community of the greater Saratoga region by delivering compassionate health care in the arenas of primary care, behavioral health and dental care. In 2017, the health center opened the Addiction Medicine program to support regional efforts in combatting the opiate crisis. Kathy’s role at the health center has provided her with impactful work and a deep sense of purpose. The opportunity to work alongside bright and compassionate staff who always have the patients’ best interest at heart, has been a joyful experience for Kathy. Her husband reflects that from the beginning he has never seen Kathy work harder with a bigger smile on her face at the end of each day. Her partnership with seasoned community service advocates has taught her so much about the community she serves. She has recently joined as a board member of Shelters of Saratoga, again inspired by the dedication and fierce commitment to the homeless demonstrated by her fellow board members and SOS staff.

Prior to her work at the center, Kathy served for 14 years at New York State Department of Health in the fields of cancer services and tobacco control but it was a community calling that led her back to service on a local level. She received her Bachelors in Voice Performance from Boston University and Master’s degrees in both Community Health Education and Social Policy. She is a certified Life Coach and enjoys helping clients weave healthy life choices into their daily routine. Kathy is an avid gardener and vocalist and has an amazing husband who fervently supports every endeavor she leaps into whether it be at the center, in the community or at their home.

Local Business whose actions displays the Embodiment of Compassion - Longfellows & Olde Bryan Inn
Local Business Longfellows & Olde Bryan Inn
A local business that has through selfless compassion most influenced or touched people of the Saratoga region

Local Non-Profit who displays the Embodiment of Compassion - The Soul Saving Station
Local Non-Profit The Soul Saving Station
A local charity, social club, faith-based organization or service group that has through selfless compassion most influenced or touched people of the Saratoga region

The Soul Saving Station for Every Nation of Saratoga Springs NY, INC. has been serving Saratoga Springs and surrounding communities for over four decades.  Their community outreach programs and youth initiatives are designed to help the needy.  They tell us that their inspiration come from the Old Testament’s Ezekiel 34:16, which reads “I will seek the lost and I will bring back the strayed.”

The church was by founded by Pastor Billy Roberts and his wife Betsy Roberts in 1961 with just thirteen members.  Proving that size doesn’t matter, the small congregation managed to touch many lives through their preaching, teaching, and radio ministries.  The congregation is currently led by Pastor Byrd and his wife Neysha (or as she suggests, Lady Byrd).

An outstanding example of the church’s importance to our area has been their operation, for more than thirty years, of Saratoga’s first homeless shelter.  The Mother Susan Anderson building stands adjacent to the church at the corner of Caroline and Henry Streets.  Serving women and children, it provides a safe haven for our some of our most vulnerable.  The program’s participants receive recovery, employment, and housing programs designed to help them regain their lives.

Even closer to our hearts has been the Soul Savings Station’s saving the day for Code Blue of Saratoga.  After just a few seasons of operation, Code Blue found itself unexpectedly homeless with a shockingly short window of time in which to identify a new base of operation.  Much to the relief of the Code Blue administrators, staff, and volunteers, the Soul Saving Station came forward with the offer of providing space for our cots that is equipped with kitchen facilities and storage capacity.  Because of that most generous action, Code Blue has been able to operate for four (now going on five) winters, providing a safe place to sleep, a hot dinner, and even friendship to the least of us in Saratoga County.

The Founders Award person(s) whose Lifetime of actions are the Embodiment of Compassion - Ed & Lisa Mitzen
The Founders Award –  Ed & Lisa Mitzen
Awarded to the person who has dedicated a lifetime to acts of compassion

Ed and Lisa Mitzen are powerhouses in every sense of the word. When they commit to something, they do it with intention, purpose and compassion. And despite the growing success of Ed’s company Fingerpaint, the couple continues to remain humble, down to earth and rooted in the Saratoga Springs community.

With a true commitment to philanthropy, both Ed and Lisa each have projects they hold particularly close to their hearts. As a couple, they are dedicated to positively making an impact in the lives around them.

Ed’s extensive charitable support spans back decades, making a difference in the lives of critically ill-children at Double H Ranch, impacting the arts through SPAC and The Hyde, and supporting education through commitments to his alma mater Syracuse University—and that’s just skimming the surface.

Lisa’s passion for helping others includes connections to the American Heart Association, as a board member for Rebuilding Together Saratoga, at Double H, and organizing events for The Alzheimer’s Association, just to name a few.

Together, Ed and Lisa have stepped up to help build an emergency homeless shelter for Code Blue Saratoga, and the couple volunteers sporadically throughout the season, usually cooking and providing meals to the guests. Lisa enjoys preparing the meals and Ed helps her serve. They especially like helping during the holidays.

Because of their compassion to this cause, the couple was granted the “Citizens of the Year” award in2018 from the Citizen Committee for Mental Health.

In 2017, Ed’s company Fingerpaint stepped up to finish building a school in The Giving Circle’s community of Kagoma Gate, the poorest city in Uganda. Fingerpaint was also instrumental in dedicating time and talent to help launch #WeGive2Trucks last summer, as The Giving Circle led efforts to send two tractor trailers to hurricane-ravaged areas in Puerto Rico and Florida. Their commitment to The Giving Circle is unwavering, doing their best to offer help whenever they’re asked.

Because of Ed’s desire for philanthropy to be an instrumental part of his business model, Fingerpaint contributes financially to more than 60 charities each year across the country. With a special emphasis on humanitarian causes such as hunger and homelessness, Fingerpaint has countless success stories of making an impact in the lives of others.

Other notable mentions include the Carnival of Love, a massive one-day event to help the 4,000+ homeless in Los Angeles. Fingerpaint’s Operation Lunch Lady, a company-wide philanthropy day, created 65,000 meals for food pantries across the country.

And in their free time, Ed and Lisa still ensure they make time for their other favorite activities. Lisa enjoys her work as a fitness instructor and her time on their “farm” with their goats, chickens and dogs. Ed enjoys traveling, skiing, watching football, riding his tractor, and spending time with his children.

Ed and Lisa’s commitment to philanthropy spans the nation, but they love nothing more than making an impact right here in their own community. Through their time and energy, people in their circle are positively affected just by knowing them.

They have truly dedicated a lifetime to acts of compassion. That is why Ed and Lisa Mitzen have been chosen as this year’s recipient of The Giving Circle’s Founder’s Award.

TGC Team Awards:

The Serge Shishik Memorial Local Team Member of the Year - Kevin Wheeler
The Serge Shishik Memorial Local Team Member of the Year – Kevin Wheeler
A Giving Circle volunteer who has through selfless compassion most influenced or touched people of the Saratoga region

TGC US-based Team Member whose actions Internationally displays the Embodiment of Compassion - Michael Christopher Orza
TGC Uganda Individual Member of the Year – Michael Christopher Orza
A Giving Circle volunteer who has through selfless compassion most influenced or touched people of our Uganda projects

Michael Orza is Chief Executive Officer and founder of Webair, a high- touch, agile Cloud and fully managed infrastructure service provider ranked among the world’s Top 100 Cloud Service Providers by Penton’s Talkin’ Cloud 100 report. A proven leader with nearly two decades of experience in the data center and telecommunications sectors, Mr. Orza is responsible for providing strategic leadership across all aspects of company operations, including setting long-range goals, strategies, positioning, plans and policies. He is also the Chief Executive Officer and founder of DomainPal.com. Mr. Orza is on the Board of several philanthropic organizations, including The Giving Circle, Inc. – Pinktie.org, as well as The SuperYou FUNdation. He grew up in Long Beach, NY – Resides in Huntington NY – and is committed to giving back to the local community, oftentimes donating critical infrastructure to local foundations and volunteering his time to important local causes.


TGC Uganda-based Team Member whose actions Internationally displays the Embodiment of Compassion - Cecelia Kagya
TGCA Uganda-based Individual Member of the Year – Cecelia Kagya
A Giving Circle Africa volunteer who has through selfless compassion most influenced or touched people of our Uganda projects

  Cecelia has been one of our The Giving Circle Africa leaders since the beginning!  She is responsible for our education & child welfare programs and in addition, is the Registrar for the Koi Koi University project.




A big thank you to all our sponsors for our 2018 Compassion Awards!